Football tour notebook: Fun takes from Purdue practice

@BTNTomDienhart

Football tour notebook: Fun takes from Purdue practice

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — No coach shook up his staff more than Darrell Hazell. Gone are offensive coordinator John Shoop and defensive coordinator Greg Hudson, along with defensive line coach Rubin Carter.

[ MORE: Dienhart: Here’s what I learned at Purdue practice ]

Hazell promoted tight ends coach Terry Malone to run the offense, a role he had with Michigan under Lloyd Carr from 2002-05. Ross Els was tabbed to be defensive coordinator. Former Purdue assistant Randy Melvin is back to coach the d-line; DeAndre Smith was hired from Syracuse to coach RBs; Tim Lester was tabbed from Syracuse to coach QBs; Darrell Funk came from Akron to coach the o-line.

With that out of the way, let’s take a look at some fun takes from Purdue practice.

Most impressive player: WR DeAngelo Yancey looks primed for a big senior season. He knows what’s at stake and is focused.

Top specimen: LB Ja’Whaun Bentley is a 6-2, 250-pound bull on the inside. He’s just a junior but already is a two-time captain.

Impressive newcomer: DE Austin Larkin arrived from a JC and has seized a starting spot. He brings a burst off the edge. He began his career as a walk-on at Notre Dame before matriculating to a JC and now Purdue.

On the rise: Redshirt freshman Markus Bailey is athletic outside linebacker whose coverage skills are strong. He’s quick and athletic.

Best drill: It was fun to watch the wideouts fight through a coach who was hitting them with pads as they tried to make catches.

Nagging question: Will the line play on both sides of the ball improve.

Under the radar: The senior guard duo of Jordan Roos and Jason King. Each is over 300 pounds of muscle and might. They will make running up the middle possible.

Number: 1, the most wins Purdue has carded in any season since 2012.

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PURDUE PRACTICE NOTES

Look for the defense to play a lot of nickel. It will be vital for the LBs to be able to cover. But are there enough quality d-backs?

OC Terry Malone has plenty of experience, having run the offense at Michigan under Lloyd Carr. Malone’s attack is much simpler than former OC John Shoop. And, that should be a good thing. The verbiage to call plays is shorter and simpler. And Malone is asking his QBs to make fewer post-snap reads. This should help the quarterbacks to play faster—and hopefully better.

The offensive line needs to improve—fast. New line coach Darrell Funk has a big task. He also has some nice building blocks in senior guards Jordan Roos and Jason King. They two big, strong full-grown men. Kirk Barron is the new center and he’s strong. He looks good. The tackle spots are iffy. The staff needs left tackle Martesse Patterson to emerge. Conditioning has been an issue. The right tackle has a few options. Redshirt freshman Matt McCann is slated to start, but senior Cameron Cermin will be a factor.

Purdue is billed as the “Cradle of Quarterbacks.” But the position has been a disappointment for almost a decade. Darrell Hazell has changed QBs each of his three seasons. That has to end if the Boilers want to make improvement. Sophomore David Blough beat out redshirt freshman Elijah Sindelar. Blough isn’t the biggest guy but has pocket presence and a nice arm. He also has nice zip on his passes.

I like these wideouts, as size and experience are off the charts. DeAngelo Yancey looks primed for a big senior year. Cameron Posey is a nice target in the slot. And Domonique Young is a 6-3 target. Bilal Marshall is another senior, while junior Greg Phillips has had a great camp as he is catching everything.

The defensive line for too long has been pushed around. And, it’s difficult seeing that change. Senior tackle Jake Replogle is a good one. He could start for any Big Ten team. After that? Hold your breath. Keiwan Jones and Eddy Wilson work inside. On the edge, the Boilermakers are starved for a difference maker. Evan Panfil looks good. He is starting opposite of Austin Larkin, a JC transfer who is the nephew of Barry Larkin. Gelen Robinson, son of Purdue hoops legend Glenn, needs to take the next step as a junior. Antoine Miles and Shayne Henley are other options at end. Stay tuned.

Look for the tight ends to flex out at times to create mismatches. Cole Herdman is a nice prospect. Keep an eye on redshirt freshman Brycen Hopkins, who has a nice frame and good potential.

Markell Jones is one of the Big Ten’s better backs. He’s a big, strong, tough runner who had a smashing debut as a true freshman in 2015. But depth is iffy. Richie Worship is a hammer. Tario Fuller is coming on. Keep an eye on him. Depth is needed after D.J. Knox was lost in the spring to a knee injury.

The linebackers may be the strong point of this defense. Ja’Whaun Bentley is an old soul who had last year ruined by injury. He’s an anchor in the middle and true leader and warrior. Markus Bailey has turned heads. He’s a good athlete. Danny Ezechukwu is a veteran and leader. Jimmy Herman is an underrated talent on the outside. Depth is OK with Andy James Garcia, among others. The staff has made coverage ability a priority.

The new corners show promise. I like Da’Wan Hunte. Myles Norwood has promise, but he was a wideout last year. Tim Carson is a factor. Strong safety Leroy Clark is a leader in the back end. Robert Gregory arrived as a QB but will leave as a free safety. Keep an eye on Navon Mosley.

The kicking must get better. Purdue hit just 5-of-11 field-goal attempts last season. It was an abomination. At times, the Boilermakers just eschewed even trying to kick a field goal—it was that bad. True freshman J.D. Dillinger is the man. We shall see. He isn’t a bomber, but his consistency from 40 yards and in is good.

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Tom Dienhart, BTN.com Senior Writer

About Tom Dienhart: BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men's basketball for BTN.com and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, and send him questions to his weekly mailbag.

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